Starring Jack Conley, Miles O’Keefe, Michael Bailey Smith, Brandon Henschel, Nathaniel Arcand, Chelsea Hobbs, Casey Labow, Lee Purcell
Directed by Karl Kozak
There are basically two ways to make a Bigfoot movie: the creature is either portrayed as a rampaging monster like in the recent films Abominable and Bigfoot, or the creature is portrayed as a relatively peaceful denizen of the deep woods still capable of savagery when need be, as has been shown in many of the Bigfoot flicks of the 70s and early 80s. Clawed: The Legend of Sasquatch attempts to have it both ways and suffers for it. Sasquatch here is most definitely a killer, but the movie can’t seem to decide if we should fear the beast or just understand that it only kills when provoked into doing so – Bigfoot really doesn’t like having guns pointed at him and God help you if you take a shot – thus it really isn’t an outright threat. That often kills the suspense level since we’re supposed to be on the edge of our seat as to what Sasquatch may or may not do when encountered by certain characters.
Clawed: The Legend of Sasquatch is set in a quaint Pacific Northwest town where Bigfoot stories date back to the Native Americans, as evidenced by the film’s opening and closing Native American voiceover telling us to respect the big hairy guy because he’s just another part of nature and nature can turn on you if you don’t respect it. A group of illegal bear poachers are mauled to death on Echo Mountain by what the authorities believe to have been a grizzly while others begin talking of Bigfoot.
The scene of the big town meeting is quite a hoot as most everyone there seems more concerned with the possibility of losing tourism dollars than the fact that something up on the mountain killed a few people the other night. The Mayor and a woman in the audience call for a media blackout as they’re particularly concerned that if word gets out it of the slayings it will start more Bigfoot talk and many are actually afraid that more of that Bigfoot talk will scare people off, as opposed to the real world where reports of Bigfoot sightings usually lead to a sudden increase in that area’s tourism.
While the sheriff sits on his duff bemoaning the idiot in charge of the town and waiting for the bear-tracking dogs to arrive so he can head up the mountain himself, young forest ranger Eagleheart skulks throughout the forest in search of the creature responsible. He already knows the truth about what really killed the poachers because he’s Native American and Native Americans see things that others cannot, hears things that others cannot, and unlike the white man, has all his ancestors’ wisdom regarding the forest and that which dwells within it. This Eagleheart character is such a cliché of the modern man-of-the-land Indian stereotype it actually becomes comical at times watching him slowly walking about the woods pausing only to stare intently at things, collecting bits of Bigfoot fur he finds on tree branches. For a monster that no one has ever been able to provide concrete proof of its existence, this Sasquatch sure does leave behind an awful lot of physical evidence.
Meanwhile, an obnoxious biology teacher forces a pick-up truck driving high school jock to lower his social status by working together with a bicycle-riding science nerd in order to pass the class. The whole jock-nerd dynamic is initially presented in such an antiquated manner that I was almost convinced I was watching something that was made in back 1984, or at least could have been.
The unlikely partners decide to head up Echo Mountain in search of killer bear footage for their science project, although the jock is really more interested in a good time. “Couple girls + couple beers = fun,” states the jock who may suck at biology but clearly excels at social mathematics. Joining them are the jock’s blonde girlfriend and his cutie cousin, who just happens to have a soft spot for science nerds. Upon ascending Echo Mountain, the jock suddenly turns into one of my least favorite modern horror movie stereotypes – the geek with a handheld digital camera who almost never puts it down, is constantly looking at the world through the viewfinder, and insists on filming every damn thing. And despite the jock’s “couple girls + couple beers = fun” declaration, their outing looks about as fun and rowdy as a Bible class nature hike.
Complicating matters is Ed (an unrecognizable Miles O’Keefe), the lone surviving hunter from the recent attack, who rounds up many of the town’s gun-toting, fart-lighting rednecks to head back up Echo Mountain and hunt down the supposed bear that killed their friends. Ed also isn’t happy about having been rescued by that damn dirty Indian Eagleheart, who he also believes for no particular reason was the one responsible for the deaths since he never actually saw who or what attacked him. Being that he’s a sociopath, Ed plans to put a bullet between Eagleheart’s eyes the first chance he gets. Wanting to shoot an injun just because – what decade is this supposed to be set in again?
These hunters also suffer from convenient deafness as they fail to hear a decibel-busting Sasquatch roar from several yards away but do hear the not nearly as loud yelping of a fellow hunter as he falls prey to Bigfoot in the same area.
Clawed: The Legend of Sasquatch gets off to a very old fashioned start – nothing wrong with that in my book – but then the whole film nearly grinds to a halt about 20 minutes in and doesn’t pick up again until the last 20 minutes. It’s not that Clawed is outright boring; it’s that a whole lot of nothing happens for the bulk of the film’s midsection. You’ve got a lot of teen bonding, hunter stupidity, periodic Sasquatch appearances and attacks, a flashback scene detailing the legend surrounding Echo Mountain, and an unnecessary dream sequence that is borderline criminal in the way it jerks the viewer around.
Will jocks and nerds learn to put aside their difference and live together in harmony? Will white guys that obviously listen to too much Michael Savage learn to accept their Native American brethren? Will the uppity Harvey Fierstein look-a-like biology teacher be shown up once and for all by the students he has oppressed for so long? Will man stop its destructive ways so that Sasquatch doesn’t have to come along and whoop some homosapien ass?
“I’ve seen all those campy Bigfoot movies and they aren’t scary,” declares jock’s girlfriend. She could have been talking about Clawed: The Legend of Sasquatch as well, since it isn’t scary either, although it’s more earnest than campy. This is a tame, PG-rated Bigfoot fare that is way too violent at times for the kind of film it seems to want to be; Bigfoot does indeed kill people and others get shot and killed along the way. The film isn’t especially gory but there is still far more bloody carnage than one would expect in a family film, which again adds to the film’s conflicting tones and ultimate identity crisis. Who exactly is the target audience outside of Bigfoot enthusiasts?
As for the title monster, the movie’s Bigfoot looks like it should be starring in a Bigfoot version of Frasier. I know that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense even to me but there was just something about the Bigfoot design that made it seem less like a sometimes ferocious forest dwelling behemoth and more like it should be sitting in a coffee shop, drinking a latte, and reading something by John Keats. Not a bad Bigfoot suit but not a very compelling one either – that pretty much sums up the movie too.
For Bigfoot movie completists only.
Discuss Clawed: Legend of the Sasquatch in our forums!